Between The Barricades

Well, this day I was so excited about finally came.

Unfortunately, I was able to attend only two out of six master classes. Not my fault, though. Just schedule conflicts. I mean, whose idea was it to hold the lectures by James Ball from the Guardian and Mark Robinson from Wired at the same time?! It was cruel.

Anyway, one of the classes I managed to attend was given by two editors of Kyiv Post, a Ukranian English-language newspaper. Obviously, they talked about covering the dramatic events that have been happening in their country for the last year.

You can probably understand why I was interested. But I won’t get into the whole argument Maidan, Crimea and the war in Lugansk and Donetsk right now — this is too complicated and, admittedly, sometimes even painful.

I’d like to concentrate on one particular aspect of the master class here. I even asked the Kyiv Post’s editors a question about it. When Katya Gorchinskaya, the deputy editor of the newspaper, was talking about the importance of retaining objectivity even when one side of the conflict seems to be pure good and other pure evil, I asked if their reporters actually went to Maidan to express their views as citizens.

She said no. And that got me thinking about my own experience in that kind of situation, which was completely opposite.

As you may or may not know, in the winter of 2011-2012 we had our own Maidan in Moscow — well, kind of: it was far less violent, which is good, and ultimately unsuccessful, which is bad. From December 2011 until May 2012 there were a lot of massive protest demonstrations against election frauds and the Russian government in general, but, since the opposition didn’t win (honestly speaking, they never really tried), eventually things got even worse, leading to the ultraconservative revival we can see now in Russia.

More than 50,000 people came to the protest demonstration against the election fraud to Bolotnaya square in Moscow on December 10, 2011
More than 50,000 people came to the protest demonstration against the election fraud to Bolotnaya square in Moscow on December 10, 2011

Anyway, Russian liberal media played an important part in this so-called revolution. Many journalists participated in the demonstrations themselves — as citizens, not reporters. It just felt natural; for the first time in our lives my generation, it seemed, had a chance to speak up and make a difference, and why should journalists stay away in such extraordinary circumstances? We didn’t even have any discussions about it. Now I wish we did.

Moreover: right before the first massive protest demonstration that happened December 10, 2011, we decided to publish on our magazine’s website several op-eds in which our reporters and editors explained why they are going to participate in the protest. I contributed to this story, too. Now I regret it.

All these questions have been bothering me ever since, and they won’t go away, and I’m not sure they have any right answers. Did we do the right thing? Shouldn’t we have retained our principles even when we thought there could be a revolution, and we can contribute to its cause? And didn’t this revolution fail, at least in part, because journalists abandoned their principles, thus in a way mirroring the actions of the government who abandoned its commitment to listen to the voice of Russian citizens?

I don’t know, but I kind of feel ashamed that I started asking myself these questions only afterwards, when it was already too late.

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